Focus Scripture: Ephesians 4:1-16 (NRSV)
Examining the Scripture
One of the specifications in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is that the community must remember that they live with one common hope and, therefore, must relate to each another in a way that will preserve the unity of the church, which represents one body in Christ with many parts. The diverse parts of the body are expected to work together in concert for the good of all. Such collaborative effort is to build up the church and protect the community against false teachings.
When the community works in harmony, the entire body of Christ and all its members grow up and reach full maturity (v. 14). They are no longer “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” With Christ as the head of the body, the church as community experiences renewed purpose and cohesion and fortifies its ability to speak “truth in love” to those who might disrupt the harmony of the community at large (v. 15). In the process, the church as community edifies itself in love (v. 16), thereby sustaining productive relationships.
- Why is unity essential for the church? Why is diversity important for the church? How should unity and diversity work together?
- Think of a time when you were part of a group that was working well together. What contributed to that unity?
- This passage tells us that each person has unique gifts of grace. The purpose of our gifts is to grow to maturity in Christ. In what ways do the gifts you possess help you do that?
Achieving equilibrium in community relationships depends on the idea of synergy. From one aspect, the community consists of a highly structured ecological system. Change in any one subsystem requires the adjustment in the other subsystems. When these systems are out of balance, dissonance is the result. Systems make every effort in these instances to restore the harmony that is missing. To live life holistically is to strive for balance in all things. Restoring the community’s equilibrium might require that the church and non-church stakeholders scrutinize available information and formulate an equation that will result in wellbeing for everyone concerned.
Theologian Leo Boff asserted that everything exists in relationships. He said: “From an ecological viewpoint, everything that exists co-exists. Everything that co-exists pre-exists. And everything that co-exists and pre-exists subsists by means of an infinite web of all-inclusive relations. Nothing exists outside relationships” (Boff, 1995, p. 7). By extension, he argued that those relationships must be held in equilibrium. Theologian Howard Thurman reinforced this point: “There is an essential harmony in all existence, and the life of every living thing shares in it” (Thurman, 2003, p. 22).
A conclusion we can draw from these two theologians is that there exists a delicately balanced relationship of mind, body, and spirit. From time to time, the balance among these dimensions is thrown off by unexpected developments in our world. This imbalance could happen for several reasons. Sometimes we’re not so sure any more of a thought we once believed. Medical and other scientific breakthroughs might give us a false sense of mortality or immortality. Death, suffering, or natural disaster might shake our certainty. Restoring the equilibrium requires that we scrutinize all of the available information and formulate an equation that will result in our well-being overall, thus allowing us to proceed through life with some sense of balance.
Church in Community Exercises
- Describe how the truth that emerges from Ephesians 4:1-16 applies to church-community collaboration and renewal?
- What systems or persons are affected by the church’s and community’s failure to work together?
- What do you deem to be an ideal role for the church in promoting community unity?
Boff, Leonardo. (1995). Ecology & Liberation: A New Paradigm. Maryknoll: Orbis.
Thurman, Howard. (2003). Disciplines of the Spirit (10th edition). Richmond, IN: Friends United Press.